Linda R. Tripp's bridge club members and state investigators testified yesterday that what they told a Howard County grand jury about Tripp's phone recordings of Monica S. Lewinsky came from their own conversations and not from information Tripp provided under a federal grant of immunity.
Meanwhile, Tripp's attorneys said they were preparing to question Lewinsky herself, perhaps as early as this morning.
In what would be Lewinsky's first public courtroom appearance since the tapes that led to President Clinton's impeachment were revealed in January 1998, the former White House intern is expected to testify about her sworn statement that she never gave Tripp permission to record their phone calls.
One friend said Lewinsky, 26, feels "worn out" and is apprehensive about testifying. "She is very reluctant about the whole thing," the friend said.
Circuit Court Judge Diane O. Leasure is conducting the week-long pretrial hearing to determine what evidence state prosecutors may use at Tripp's Jan. 18 trial on two charges related to recording a phone call.
Maryland State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli would not confirm whether Lewinsky might take the stand today. But her name was on a list of prosecution witnesses that was submitted to Leasure and Tripp's defense team. Lewinsky's attorney, Plato Cacheris, said last week that prosecutors told him to have his client prepared to testify as early as today.
Lewinsky is expected to face the same line of questioning as Tripp's friends and state investigators did yesterday: Did she tell a Howard County grand jury only facts she knew personally? Or did she also share information that she learned from former independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr's investigation based on Tripp's cooperation?
Evidence that is gathered as a result of someone's cooperation under immunity is considered tainted and cannot be used against that person.
Tripp, who has waived her appearance at this week's hearing, was indicted on two charges: illegally recording a Dec. 22, 1997, phone call and illegally disclosing its contents to Newsweek magazine. Each carries a maximum of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Lewinsky's testimony is considered essential to the state's case because prosecutors must show that she did not consent to the recordings. Maryland law requires that both parties in a phone conversation give permission for it to be recorded.
Furthermore, Montanarelli testified Tuesday, Lewinsky identified the tape in question as being recorded Dec. 22, 1997. He said that would mean it was recorded after one of Tripp's former attorneys warned her that the recordings were illegal. Showing that Tripp knew about the Maryland law before she recorded the call is also necessary to prove the charges against her, Montanarelli said.
Montanarelli also testified that Lewinsky remembered the date of the recorded call based solely on her recollection that it occurred the day before her going-away party at the Pentagon, where she worked after leaving the White House. Tripp's attorneys have suggested that Lewinsky's memory was influenced by reading the Starr report to Congress, and its indexes, while preparing to write her book, "Monica's Story."
Leasure ruled this week that Tripp's federal immunity took effect Feb. 19, 1998, and that Tripp had no immunity protection from state prosecution.
However, the judge noted that prosecutors still bear a "heavy burden" to show that they did not gather evidence based on information that Tripp gave to Starr's office after the immunity was effective.
Tripp's lawyers are seeking to have evidence excluded from trial, arguing that some of the state's evidence came from the Starr report or from news reports that could have been based on information that Tripp provided Starr under her grant of immunity.
Tripp's friends who were called to the stand yesterday by state prosecutors testified that they knew she was recording her friend Monica on the phone in Tripp's Columbia living room in the fall of 1997--long before Starr or the media found out.
"I knew at some point she was taping conversations, but we never really discussed why," said Kathleen Manwiller, one of Tripp's Columbia neighbors and a fellow bridge player. "I wasn't thinking about recording [phone calls] being illegal."
However, under cross-examination, Manwiller said she could not be certain whether she saw the tape recorder before or after she started reading about the tapes in the paper.
In a procedural matter yesterday, prosecutors agreed that they would not call Newsweek editor Ann McDaniel into court this week but did not rule out subpoenaing her for Tripp's trial. McDaniel's sworn affidavit that she was present when the Tripp-Lewinsky tape in question was played at Newsweek's Washington office is important to establish that Tripp revealed the illegal tape's contents.
Newsweek had fought McDaniel's subpoena for the current hearing, arguing that prosecutors were trying to find out confidential sources.
CAPTION: Cynthis Haus, background, Kathleen Manwiller, Patricia Mancuso and Kathy Sarkis arrive at hearing for Linda R. Tripp.